LOS ANGELES – When Zuffa, LLC, the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, purchased Strikeforce this past March, rumors immediately began to circulate about the demise of the mixed martial arts promotion headed by Scott Coker.
After several months and nine fight cards, promises from UFC and Zuffa executives to run Strikeorce with a “business as usual” mentality have been kept, at least as far as rolling out events and not going into any sort of “dark” period. The lingering doubt of Strikeforce’s longevity continues to echo, however, with the term of its current Showtime deal set to expire soon.
“I think it’s right around February of next year,” Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta recently told MMAWeekly.com about the length of the deal between Strikeforce and Showtime.
According to Fertitta, Showtime has extensions that could take the partnership into 2014 and, until the initial deal expires, Zuffa will fulfill the obligation written in the contract and continue to put on events.
Once the deal expires, though, it’s a whole different ballgame.
The end of the contract will signal Zuffa’s freedom to do what they want with Stirkeforce without the influence of Showtime. From December being the final Strikeforce event to the Challengers series acting as a farm system for the UFC, the list of possible outcomes has been tossed around by a litany of speculators.
Fertitta dismissed rumors like these and, again, stressed Zuffa’s contractual obligation, but the sense that they will reevaluate their position with Strikeforce is strong. In fact, Fertitta said once the contract is done, they’ll take a look at their options.
“At the end of the day, Showtime is contracted to receive a product, and we’re going to keep giving it to them,” he said. “They want us to do the eight Strikeforce shows, the Challengers shows. We’re going to do no different than what we’ve been doing the last four or five months, since we owned the company; keep delivering great fights and keep that going as long as the contract says, and then, at that time, we’ll reevaluate.”
Strikeforce’s next event will be the semifinals of the organization’s Heavyweight Grand Prix, which is scheduled to take place on Sept. 10 in Cincinnati.